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NFC North News and Notes: December 10

Posted Dec 10, 2013

We take a look around the NFC North to see what the Vikings closest competition has going on…

Vikings

Last Week: 34-20 loss to the Eagles

Going into Philadelphia was going to be a tough task even without a giant blizzard, but the Lions job didn’t get any easier when several inches of snow fell before, during and after Sunday’s game against the Eagles, which resulted in a 34-20 Lions loss.

The loss, combined with Chicago and Green Bay’s wins last weekend, leaves the Lions tied for first in the NFC North with the Bears at 7-6 and a half-game ahead of the Packers with three weeks remaining.

The snow was much worse during the first half of this game than the second, which made it extremely tough to put points on the board early, but the Lions found themselves ahead 8-0 at the half. They increased their lead to 14-0 thanks to Jeremy Ross punt return score.

After that touchdown, though, the Lions failed to stop the Eagles from scoring a touchdown on their remaining five drives in the game. LeSean McCoy was the primary suspect in Detroit’s undoing during the second half, as he had touchdown runs of 57 and 40 yards.  McCoy, the NFL’s leading rusher, finished the day with 217 yards on 29 carries, tearing apart one of the best run defenses in the League.

Conversely, the Lions had to make due without Reggie Bush, who aggravated a calf injury during pregame warm-ups and didn’t see the field the rest of the day. For as good as Bush has been, the knock on him for his career has always been his durability and he’s been dinged up more weeks than not it seems.

The conditions really grounded both passing games, so without Bush it was on Matthew Stafford’s shoulders to get it done which was a recipe for disaster. He was just 10-25 for 148 yards and five fumbles, one of which he lost.

Though this loss certainly stings, this is clearly one of those cases where the Lions won’t dwell on what happened Sunday too much since so much of the game was driven by the awful conditions. Fortunately for Detroit, their final three games will all be played indoors on fast tracks that suit their high-octane style.

This Week: Lions vs. Ravens on Monday Night Football

The Lions will play host to another 7-6 team in a fight for its playoff life in the form of the Ravens this Monday in Detroit. Baltimore, of course, is coming off their dramatic win over the Vikings and are riding a three-game winning streak but have just one win away from home all season.


Vikings

Last Week: 45-28 win over Dallas

Having lost three of their last four games, including the overtime defeat to the Vikings at Mall of America Field the weekend before, nobody was really sure how the Bears would react as they hosted the Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, it looked like the Bears took out a week’s worth of aggression on Dallas’ hapless defense as Chicago cruised to a 45-28 win to move into a first place tie with the Lions atop the NFC North.

The much-maligned Chicago run defense did their usual thing and allowed the Cowboys to go for nearly 200 yards on the ground, but the Bears found a way to get around that problem: they didn’t punt.  All night.  Not once.

Chicago’s offense, once again led by Josh McCown in place of the injured Jay Cutler, put up either a touchdown or a field goal each time they had the ball sans the last drive where they took a knee. As he’s done almost every time he’s gotten a chance to play this year, McCown was borderline brilliant: he was 27-36 for 348 yards and four touchdowns with obviously zero turnovers.

Alshon Jeffery made another ridiculous touchdown catch while Brandon Marshall had 100 yards receiving. Matt Forte went crazy both on the ground (102 yards) and through the air (73 yards, 1 touchdown) as the Cowboys offered very little resistance at any point. Needless to say there’s going to be an awful lot of pressure on Cutler once he takes over again to perform at a high level given where McCown has set the bar. 

As previously noted the Bears were again gashed on the ground but they did hold Dallas’ potent passing game in check, with Dez Bryant catching just two passes and Tony Romo completing only 11 passes on the evening.

This Week: Bears at Browns, Sunday at Noon 

Chicago’s final two games have them playing at Philadelphia and at home vs. a Packers team that figured to have Aaron Rodgers back in the fold, so it’s fairly critical that they pickup a win this Sunday in Cleveland. The Browns are feisty – see last Sunday’s one-point loss to the Patriots – but they also lost at home to Jacksonville a few weeks ago, so you have to like Chicago’s chances of remaining in a first place tie for at least one more week.


Vikings

Last Week: 22-21 win over Atlanta

Facing another week without Aaron Rodgers didn’t seem as daunting this past weekend as maybe some others for the Packers, who welcomed the hapless Falcons to Lambeau Field. On top of the Falcons having three wins on the season, dome teams heading into the frigid conditions of the Midwest often times fold like a cheap tent. 

On this day, though, the Falcons put up a valiant fight but in the end the Matt Flynn-led Packers were able to find a way to get a 22-21 win, keeping their playoff hopes alive while they hope and pray to get Rodgers back in the fold before season’s end.

When LB Sean Weatherspoon intercepted a Flynn pass and returned it 71 yards for a score to put the Falcons ahead 21-10 heading into halftime, it sure looked like the Packers were heading for another loss. However, Green Bay’s defense picked it up during the second half, forcing the Falcons to go three-and-out on their first two possessions, and then sacking Matt Ryan and forcing a fumble that DT Johnny Jolly recovered.

That gave the Packers great field position and Flynn connected with Andrew Quarless for a touchdown that, combined with Mason Crosby’s earlier field goals, put the Packers in front.

Atlanta would then go on to miss a long field goal and forgo trying another one when facing 4th down at Green Bay’s 33, with Ryan instead throwing an incomplete pass that gave the Packers back the ball. The Falcons had one more shot late but Ryan was intercepted on a Hail Mary pass to ice the win for Green Bay. 

Now Green Bay will hope that Rodgers can return to action this week in time for a true playoff push. Reports say he’ll be evaluated Wednesday but it seems like a decision on if he’s ready to go come Sunday won’t be announced until closer to the weekend.

This Week: Packers at Cowboys, Sunday at 3:25 PM

The good news for the Packers is that they’re playing a Dallas team that is facing a short week after having played on Monday. The bad news is that the Cowboys were embarrassed by the Bears and should have plenty of motivation against the Packers, as Dallas now sits one game behind the Eagles for first place in the NFC East.

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